Yasuko Kusakabe is a supporting character in My Neighbor Totoro. She is the mother of Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, and the wife of Tatsuo Kusakabe. Presumably, she suffers from Tuberculosis; her sickness being the reason why she and her family moved to the rural country side. She was admitted to the local hospital which offered the best care for the illness, and the family decided it would be best for her to recuperate in a more fresh and sunny environment.
She is voiced by Lea Salonga in the more popular Disney version, who is also famous for providing the singing voice of Fa Mulan and Jasmine in the very popular Disney films, Mulan and Aladdin.
Yasuko is first seen when Satsuki, Mei, and their father come to visit her in the hospital. They are very excited to see each other, and she asks the children about how they are settling in. Satsuki then whispers in her mother's ear that there may be ghosts in their home, and Mei hesitantly asks her if she likes haunted houses, afraid that her mother may not want to come home if such circumstances apply. Intrigued, Yasuko joyfully states that she will have to return home soon so she can "meet some ghosts." Yasuko then begins to brush Satsuki's hair out of affection, stating that her hair is unmanageable, as her hair was when she was her daughter's age, and states that she and Satsuki are a lot alike.
Later, Satsuki writes to her about certain events, but only for the second letter is Yasuko ever shown reading it. For a while, she even reads part of it aloud to herself.
Later in the film, Satsuki and Mei are seen picking and eating the vegetables grown by Granny, and decide that when their mother returns home for the weekend, the vegetables will make her very healthy. Unfortunately, news soon arrives that Yasuko is not doing well due to a minor cold and cannot visit until next weekend. This makes Mei very upset, which soon results in her running away in hopes of finding the hospital at which their mother is staying.
Yasuko is next seen sitting in her hospital bed, apologizing and stating that she doesn't know why the hospital said to telegram, as she just had a cold. She then states that she hopes it didn't upset her daughters too much. Satsuki and Mei are then seen sitting up in the tree overlooking their mother, and are happy to see her laughing. Yasuko says that she is going to hurry up and get well so she can return home. She then gets a joyful look on her face and says she thought she just saw Mei and Satsuki sitting up in the tree. Her husband then states that she may have, and shows her an ear of corn that he picked off the windowsill with the words "For Mommy" written on it.
Yasuko is then seen in the credits, returning home healthy and happy.
Yasuko has brown eyes and dark brown hair with a pigtail. She wears a hospital cloth, as well as a blue kimono and a blue dress in the epilogue scenes.
- Mei Kusakabe (younger daughter)
- Satsuki Kusakabe (elder daughter)
- Tatsuo Kusakabe (husband)
- Granny (lady)
The girls act so strong, but I think it's been harder than they let on. Especially Satsuki; she tries to act so adult... I'm going to hurry up and get well!
- —Yasuko to her husband, regarding her daughters.
- Yasuko Kusakabe supposedly has tuberculosis, a situation inspired by the hospital stay by Hayao Miyazaki's mother when she had tuberculosis.